Hillsborough County Commission and the Voting Rights Act

The Hillsborough County Commission currently has seven members, four of which are elected from districts, three elected at-large by the entire county. This is not a new arrangement, and the hybrid system of districts/at-large is not unique – in fact, my home city of Gainesville has the same four district/three at-large setup for their commission. A map of the districts is below (click for a larger view).


The county has seen racial change over the past few decades, especially when it comes to the Hispanic population. In the 1990 Census, 13% of the county was Hispanic, in 2000, 18%, and in the most recent Census, Hispanics made up 25% of the county. However, there is no majority-Hispanic district in the county. Instead, District 3 is a joint Hispanic/African-American majority district, with a voting-age population of 35.5% African-American and 23.4% Hispanic; this district currently has an African-American representative, and there is no Hispanic representative currently on the commission.

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Automated Redistricting and the Florida State Senate

The latest challenge of Florida’s congressional districts wrapped up last week, which brought to light a lot of questionable behind-the-scenes behavior on the part of the Florida legislative leadership during the redistricting process. Should the ruling go in favor of the Democrats and the League of Women Voters/Common Cause coalition, the findings produced during the case make it likely that the state senate maps will be challenged (again) afterward.

It’s easy to get cynical about the process, no matter what supposed safeguards are in place, such as Florida’s 2010 “Fair Districts” constitutional amendments. Many come to the same conclusion as Christopher Ingraham at the Washington Post – why not consider letting computers do it?

Like Ingraham says, algorithms for redistricting already exist, and have for over fifty years now. The operations research literature has had quite a bit of discussion on potential methodologies, as have election law journals and random programmers, ranging in levels of sophistication and computational complexity. There are a couple algorithms in particular I seem to see posted regularly around online. They’re both great in what they set out to achieve, and have made some headway in popularizing the idea of automated redistricting, so I’m a fan of the creators of both. Unfortunately, both algorithms fall on the simplistic side of suggested methods (by design), which has some major drawbacks.

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